The Autism Project of Southern Ohio held their 1st Annual Camp Au-some: let your light shine camping trip this past weekend at Shawnee Forest’s Camp Oyo.
The three day camping trip was open to members and their families to bring together friends and give them the opportunity to share a variety of new experiences with one another. The event packed weekend gave upwards of 50 kids the chance to stay in cabins overnight, roast marshmallows, and enjoy stories around a campfire and other traditional camp activities. Cornhole games, an obstacle course, canoeing and creek exploration were some of the favorites according to campers.
9-year-old Jerry Book of West Portsmouth had only positive things to say about his time at camp.
“It’s so great. I went into the creek, and I ran the obstacle course. I’m having the funnest day ever!,” said Book.
His mother Patty shared her son’s enthusiasm for the camping trip.
“I think this weekend was a really great idea,” said Patty Book. “It’s nice to get everyone together and share these experiences”
On Saturday evening, horses provided by the Wireman family were brought to the campground to allow many of the children their first ever horseback riding experience.
“This weekend has allowed so many of the kids to feel accepted and to make new friends,” said Bill Campbell, whose family is new to the organization. “Lots of new experiences happening for a lot of kids. Before today my son has never seen a horse up close and now he’s excited to go horseback riding.”
The camping trip focused on inclusion, allowing each kid to feel accepted by their peers and conquer fears and personal firsts. For many campers horseback riding was a major accomplishment.
Mike Bell, president of the organization, and his wife Pam were able to see their son Aaron accomplish just that after he mustered up the courage to face his fears and climb onto the back of Hank the horse.
“I did it!” said Aaron, as the other campers cheered for him.
“I think that right there just made the whole weekend worthwhile”, said Bell.
Aside from horseback riding, some Camp Au-some campers have already met their personal goals by graduating high school and attending college. Ethan, a camper and recent Portsmouth graduate, is attending Shawnee State, while another camper, Jimmy, recently received his certificate from the Southern Ohio Technical Center.
“I truly believe that given the opportunity these kids can do anything, “ said Bell.
Young campers were not the only people to benefit from the weekend of activities. Apart from allowing young campers to get to know each other and to enjoy outdoor activities, Camp Au-some was an opportunity for parents overcoming similar hurdles to connect with one another.
“For parents of children who have been diagnosed recently, it can be overwhelming,” said Bell. “Within our organization there’s bound to be someone who has already gone through whatever you’re going through and would be more than willing to guide you through it. We like to think of ourselves as extended family. You’re not alone in this.”
Camp Au-some is a free camping event funded by sponsors and local donations, with no set age restrictions for its campers.
The Autism Project of Southern Ohio is a non-profit organization, with all of its donations going directly to help local children. The organization meets the second Saturday of every month at the New Boston Community Center. Public is welcome to attend.
Reach: Ivy Potter (740) 353-3101 extension 1932